TOMS RIVER – Mayor Daniel Rodrick said he scheduled the February 14 council meeting that will start at 2 p.m. because it was Valentine’s Day, noting the much earlier hour.
He made that statement in an interview in an article in The Asbury Park Press following news that a meeting featuring a controversial ordinance involving police staffing would replace the aborted Zoom format meeting held for about a half hour on January 31.
The publication of the ordinance for the meeting was itself an issue of controversy as administration staff could not confirm the publication of the legal notices that appeared in The Asbury Park Press and The Star Ledger on February 7.
Township Clerk Mike Cruoglio told The Toms River Times that same day that he was not involved with the publishing of the legal and was unaware of it until questions arose about its existence.
The clerk’s name however appears on the legal notice along with the name of Assistant Township Attorney Peter S. Pascarella. The Toms River Times sought comment from the mayor, Council President Craig Coleman and the rest of the township council regarding who authorized the legal notice (which involves the municipal clerk) and how the decision to hold an afternoon council meeting was reached.
To date, only one official has responded to that inquiry. “I was totally unaware of the meeting date set for February 14 and only learned about it the same way everybody else did, through an ad in the newspaper,” Councilman James Quinlisk, Ward 3 told The Toms River Times.
The township’s public information office did not issue any statement from the mayor concerning the rescheduled meeting but according to the article in the Asbury Park Press, the mayor said the early time period was because, “it’s Valentine’s Day.”
Rodrick rescinded promotions in the township’s police department and ordered Chief Mitch Little to make a new table of organization that reflects the current staffing level of one captain and one deputy chief.
According to the mayor, this would eliminate the need for the police department’s staffing to be addressed through the controversial ordinance according to the mayor but it did provide the council the opportunity to include it on the agenda for the upcoming Valentine’s Day council meeting where the second reading and public hear on it will be held.
In that Asbury Park Press article, Roderick is also quoted as saying, “we received some bad advice.” He added that while the governing body was originally advised that an ordinance was required to amend the police staffing ordinance to limit the number of captains in the department that was not correct.
The township code states the police department is limited to having three captains and one of those captains recently retired. The other two will retire in June. The two captains’ salaries will save the township around $700,000 in salaries pension payments and health benefits, money that would be used in the hiring of eight emergency medical technicians.
The mayor has stated this action is in response to resident concerns that response times to the northern beach communities of the township has had residents waiting for as long as 30 minutes for an ambulance.
Rodrick rescinded police interim promotions on February 3 that had been made by Chief Little. He also requested the chief create the new organization table based on one captain and one deputy chief.
Chief Little maintains that the captains’ positions were necessary for the supervision of the 335 member police department that include 114 patrol officers plus special officers and civilian workers.
The number of uniformed officers, 162, were the same two decades ago despite a rise in response calls from 43,885 to 65,000 yearly and population growth in Toms River that according to the U.S. Census Bureau, climbed from 89,000 in 2000 to around 98,000 in 2023.
Residents involved with a recall effort of the ordinance have scheduled a press conference an hour before the February 14 council meeting at the Washington Street entrance to Town Hall.
Should their effort prove successful, it could rescind the ordinance or call for a referendum to be placed on the ballot in November. Their objective is to gain the signatures of 5,000 township residents for the recall effort anticipating the ordinance’s passage.